It’s fashionable to sneer at David Beckham.
You know the shtick.
He’s past his sell by date.
He’s a clothes horse who can’t raise a gallop.
He’s all moisturiser and metrosexuality.
Hang on a minute……
Let’s consider the realities of his life.
He’s still box office.
He’s got substance, to support the style.
He’s a family man, with family values.
Honesty, hard work, humility.
Remember those virtues?
Of course, he knows the impact of fame.
He uses it to his advantage, and to the benefit of the causes he espouses.
He will be a fantastic ambassador for England’s 2018 World Cup bid in Zurich.
FIFA’s powerbrokers will bask in his reflected glory.
Such a shame they have no conscience.
They have their own egos to satisfy, petty agendas to pursue.
That makes me mad, because of the quality of the foot soldiers in England’s bid team.
They are young, talented, idealistic.
They may be unemployed on Friday.
If bids are not to be judged on their merits, let’s dwell on a few home truths.
Football at club level is thriving
For all its faults, the old game can still harness dreams.
It needs men like David Beckham more than ever.
Archive for November, 2010
It’s fashionable to sneer at David Beckham.
He’ll love it. Absolutely love it.
He’ll be energised by the hate and hysteria.
He’ll wear a halo of notoriety, and taunt the hanging judges of Spanish football.
El Clasico will be about him – and that suits him down to his Italian moccasin shoes.
I am, of course, talking about Jose Mourinho.
Everyone is talking about Jose Mourinho.
He’s at war with UEFA bureaucrats, who think they can read his mind.
He’s at the throat of fellow managers, in Spain and England.
His disrespect defies their sacred code of conduct.
They don’t like him. He doesn’t care.
He has turned the biggest match of the season into a sideshow.
The Special One against all-comers.
Live, on a TV near you, tonight.
Mourinho specialises in thinking outside the laundry basket.
He’s aware of the fixture’s social, political and economic baggage.
But, by creating controversy, he has taken the focus away from his players.
They can concentrate solely on protecting Real Madrid’s unbeaten record in the Nou Camp.
Mourinho will distil the bile, channel the tension, design a gameplan to stifle Barcelona.
Chancer, or genius?
I’m sure you have a view. There are no neutrals in this debate.
Whatever you decide, it will be impossible to ignore him.
Writing a book is a little like throwing a rock into a pond – you stand back and watch the ripples.
Family has reached deep into the US – to Houston, Texas to be precise – to judge by this review on Amazon.
Here’s to you, Mrs Donovan :
This is a unique and perceptive insight into what it takes to run a small football club in England. Forget about the Premier League with its overpaid prima donnas and soap opera divas. Read how a REAL world football club operates – the insecurities, desperation, budget management, transfer dealing, leadership and man management, heartbreak, passion and occasional success – from the perspectives of players, owners, fans and managers. Although this book follows Millwall for one successful season, the insights and conclusions will reverberate and strike a chord in the minds of fans of any small football club. A must read, brilliantly put together by the author and rightly receiving accolades as the best sports book of 2010.
Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
Hardly a new line, I agree.
But entirely appropriate.
Football’s so called Battle of Britain is the equivalent of an archaeological dig.
The latest instalment, at Ibrox last night, was moribund.
The rivalry was robotic.
The atmosphere was as close as it comes to being lukewarm.
Once upon a time, such occasions were sulphuric.
Now, they have a cosy familiarity.
Roles, once assigned, are rarely defied.
Manchester United had a colonial arrogance.
They merely waited for Rangers to make a critical mistake.
They trusted in mental aberration or sheer fatigue.
Right on cue, Rangers failed to hold out for their traditional 0-0 “win”.
Braveheart took the night off.
It had the feel of an FA Cup tie, rather than a Champions League summit meeting.
The Scottish champions had the mentality of plucky underdogs.
They turned the match into an attack v defence training session.
It wasn’t rocket science.
Put nine men behind the ball.
Rely on the odd set piece or counter attack.
The outcome was front page news in Scotland.
It was rescued from oblivion in England by Wayne Rooney.
Sad, but inevitable.
Even the solution – Rangers and Celtic escaping the straitjacket of the Scottish Premier League – is old and tired.
Let’s put the hype out of its misery.
Complete the sentence:
“The referee’s a ………..”
Couldn’t help yourself, could you?
You’ve heard it so many times, it’s lurking in your sub-conscious.
Abusing the ref is part of the soundtrack of modern football.
But look beyond the pantomime posing, and the playground banter.
What’s going on in Scotland exposes the dangers of an undervalued problem.
Referees, like teachers and policemen, are not normally militant.
For them to threaten strike action, something drastic needs to be wrong.
Instead of concentrating on the search for scab referees, the Scottish authorities should address wider issues.
One decision, to rescind a Celtic penalty in a match against Dundee United, has caused a landslide.
It is, simply, unacceptable that officials should feel unsafe in their own homes.
It is an outrage that they worry about the impact of threats, on their wives and children.
It’s not nice.
Like many journalists, I’ve had my share of filth from anonymous abusers.
Football arouses passion. That’s part of its timeless appeal.
I can understand the rage of managers and players.
Take last night.
Arsene Wenger was right to brand UEFA’s fifth referee system as “useless”.
Arsenal were denied a stick-on penalty, and face a full-blown crisis of confidence.
But, in the great scheme of things, it is irrelevant.
When a referee’s family fear the knock on the door, the world has gone mad.
World has gone a little mad over the last couple of days – apologies for being off air.
Here’s my take on what a 2012 Olympic football team could look like – if we pay due respect to the other Home Nations:
Gareth Bale’s eyes lit up.
He hadn’t spotted a ponderous right back, on the opposition team sheet.
He hadn’t been asked to relive Tottenham’s stunning win in the North London derby.
He’d merely been given the invitation of a lifetime.
Would he like to play for Team GB in a home Olympics?
You bet, he told his audience at the BT Tower.
His enthusiasm was revealing.
The GB football team will be one of the symbols of the 2012 Games.
It would be a triumph over petty politics.
A chance to play fantasy football, for real.
It would need to draft in at least two players each, from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
I’d ask for dispensation to make Ryan Giggs captain.
He represents all that is good in the game.
I’d play him centrally, inside Bale, and ask his Manchester United teammate Darren Fletcher to link with Jack Wilshere, on the right side of midfield.
I’d look to Northern Ireland’s Jonny Evans and Aaron Hughes to stabilise the left side of the defence.
Here’s my team:
Hart (England); Hutton (Scotland) Jones (England) Evans (Northern Ireland), Hughes (Northern Ireland); Fletcher (Scotland), Wilshere (England) Giggs (Wales) Bale (Wales); Carroll (England), Rooney (England)
What’s yours? .
Fergie : Got to love him ( honest):
So, you want to cross Sir Alex Ferguson.
Try training for the ordeal by tap dancing through a minefield.
That’ll build up your reserves of bravado.
It will be a brief, yet entertaining, diversion for the rest of us.
We’ll insert fingers in ears, and await the inevitable explosion.
Fergie is an old softie, deep down.
Very deep down.
He insists, with a twinkle in his eye, that he is dealing with “fragile human beings”
It’s not quite tantrums and tiaras.
Cristiano Ronaldo has left town.
It’s more tattoos, and tears under pressure
Any player who defies Fergie is taking a one way ticket to Palookaville.
As he says “no one is more important than me”.
That’s why he has been treating Wayne Rooney like a schoolboy.
He sent him to the dunce’s corner, Nike Town, in Oregon.
He’s banned him from the tuck shop.
He’s portrayed Rooney as a shallow child, ill-served by his advisers.
That won’t be enough to ensure an arms-open welcome at Old Trafford.
Manchester United fans see him as an ingrate, rather than a Great.
They will be won round, however, by goals, grit and determination.
But will Rooney ever escape from Fergie’s clutches?
Not a chance.
Has to be said :
France had a shameful World Cup.
Everyone agreed Something Must Be Done.
Amazingly, it was
Laurent Blanc was brought in.
He set out to change the culture, as well as personnel.
Prima donnas were ordered to sing the national anthem.
They are expected to appreciate who they are playing for, and why.
Their technical qualities will do the rest.
France are 21st in the new FIFA rankings.
England are 6th.
Spot the difference.
Vive la difference.
England had a shameful World Cup.
Nothing Was Done.
Fabio Capello is still going through the motions.
He doesn’t look as if he is interested.
His latest team was a product of blue sky PR thinking.
It was an accident waiting to happen.
The wrong captain:
Rio Ferdinand talks the talk without walking the walk.
Too much inexperience:
Jordan Henderson and Kieran Gibbs were thrown to the wolves
Too many serial underachievers:
Gareth Barry, abject for club and country.
Accusations of incompetence:
Liverpool are angry at the broken promise, which will cost them the services of Steven Gerrard.
Newcastle are affronted by Capello’s apparent indifference to their concerns over the fitness of Andy Carroll.
Should Capello be sacked?
An over reaction, perhaps, but yes.
Better late than never.
England time again : do people really care?
The marketing boys have done their job.
Wembley will be full tonight.
The FA will be able to meet the mortgage payments for another month or two.
But something still doesn’t feel right.
The FA admit they are targeting fans within a two hour radius of the national stadium.
They’re working against the principle of England as a national team.
Sure, there’s a degree of patriotism.
Despite doubts about his commitment, we want to see Fabio Capello’s squad excel.
At their best, on the biggest occasions, the England football team is a unifying force.
There is no such thing as a meaningless international.
Yet France should not be playing at Wembley tonight.
They should be gracing one of the cathedrals of the club game.
St James’ Park. Old Trafford. Anfield. Villa Park.
Take your pick, make your own suggestions.
They are ideal venues for England friendlies.
Fans outside the comfort blanket of the M25 are being short changed.
I met two brothers, Bradford fans, at the World Cup in South Africa.
They never miss an England game, home or away.
But they need to take a day off today, to travel South.
They are unlikely to get home before 3am tomorrow.
Their loyalty is being taken for granted.
And that is simply not good enough.
On the England beat this week:
He knows football, at its best, blends power and poetry.
He knows a club should be run on pragmatism, and principle.
He knows the most critical distance in football is the five inches between a player’s ears.
That’s why Arsene Wenger had mixed feelings about Jay Bothroyd’s elevation to the England squad.
He sent his congratulations.
But he also amplified his regrets.
Bothroyd was expelled from Arsenal before he had a chance to educate him.
It was a case of too much, too soon.
At 18, Bothroyd lacked the character to cope with the consequences of his talent.
At 28, he is still high maintenance.
He will, in all probability, be a fleeting presence in the England squad.
But Premier League clubs are on his case, once again.
If Cardiff do not get promoted, it’s likely he will add another club to his collection.
He’s grown into himself, realised his weaknesses are more important than his strengths.
He is big enough to admit he was petulant, stupid.
He bears the scars, but remains a survivor.
Arsene Wenger knows he is a player.
That’s good enough for Bothroyd, deep down.
And it should be good enough for us.